Tell me what a man wants -- that is his weakness.
-- A House Appropriations Committee Chairman and veteran of 50 years of legislative wars --
If you are quiet, you can hear knives coming out.
The Sean Penn encounter with fugitive drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán is a case study of a singular phenomenon:
A Jungian trickster figure tricks himself.
El Chapo was captured last week. In case you are from another planet and don´t know who he is, click here.
In his article published three days ago in Rolling Stone Magazine, Sean Penn detailed how he met with El Chapo back in October. We wrote about Penn five months previously: see our May post "Open Letter to Alejandro Iñárritu."
"Fast Times at Ridgemont High"; his naughty Oscar presentation comment about Iñárritu, "Who gave this son-of-a-bitch his green-card?": Penn is a vintage trickster figure. It is how he puts hamburgers on the table.
The issue is not if Penn broke the law by talking with El Chapo. He didn´t. The issue is whether or not he knew what he was doing. He didn´t.
In 1989-90, I was travelling in Latin American writing columns for the El Paso Times. Guerrilla wars were raging in three of the countries I visited: El Salvador, Mexico and Peru. In one of them -- I won´t identify it -- I was offered an exclusive interview with the top guerrilla leader. After thinking about it approximately two seconds, I turned the offer down.
My reason was simple. There was no way I could determine if the interview was a set-up. Of specific concern: without my knowledge, law enforcement authorities could plant an electronic bug in my clothes.
Had they done so and I went for the interview, two things could have happened:
(i) the guerrillas find the bug, and ... well ...
(ii) the guerrillas do not find the bug. The government fixes the location of the guerrilla leader and kills/captures him.
The issue presented by possibility (ii) was clear. I was a journalist. I was not a cop either intentionally or unintentionally.
Sean Penn, if you are reading this post let me introduce you to an endangered word: deontology. Your deeds and words show you have never seen it before, or if you did, do not understand it.
To hit the top of the note, I will define deontology via a concrete example from my journalist days. If somebody granted me an interview, the least I could do in return was not put their life in danger.
The Sean Penn-El Chapo encounter was a set-up with a classic exploitative outcome. For reasons given below, I suspect we are looking at a matter of consequences more than intentions.
* * *
El Chapo wanted a movie made about him. To that end he actively communicated on the Internet and by BBM with Mexican actress Kate del Castillo. She arranged the meeting between El Chapo and Sean Penn.
The movie was El Chapo´s weakness.
The ancient Greeks had a different way of saying the same thing. Our post of February 28, 2014 ("The Hamartia of Rafael Correa") presented it:
"Aristotle wrote that a fundamental element of tragedy is hamartia. Hamartia (ἁμαρτία) has been alternatively translated as fatal flaw, frailty, sin, trespass, mistake, miscalculation, error of judgment. The problem is, the more the meaning of hamartia is investigated, the more its meaning slips away. That is always the case when a word refers to a phenomenon deeply rooted in the unconscious. Scholars agree, however, that the most basic sense of hamartia is missing the mark."
When they spotted the Blackberry messages between del Castillo and El Chapo, the Mexican and American governments spotted El Chapo´s hamartia. You can be sure wide/wider/widest smiles flashed across their faces. They decided to massage El Chapo´s frailty, to manipulate his mistake. The best part was that all they had to do was nothing at all, viz., step aside and let things take their natural course.
Kate del Castillo was monitored by police beginning in 2014. There is ironclad proof she and Penn were under surveillance: security agency photos surfaced showing them together in Mexico, preparing to depart for the El Chapo meeting.
Did Penn give away El Chapo´s location?
According to the Mexican authorities, the answer is yes. Reuters quoted Mexican Attorney General Arley Gómez: "It (the meeting) was an essential element, because we were following (Guzman's) lawyer, and the lawyer took us to these people and to this meeting." (Note: demonstrative facts support Gómez´s "essential" conclusion. See our January 16 update below).
Here, up jumps the devil. Did Penn (a) intentionally or (b) unintentionally lead to the capture of El Chapo? That question is being asked right now across the Internet and mass media.
To put the question in perspective:
(i) Mexico´s Attorney General and other Mexican officials could be talking through their hats about Penn being essential to El Chapo´s capture. Indeed, that is Penn´s argument, viz., he told Charlie Rose (see below) the officials feel "humiliated" and are lying in order to sic the narcos on him.
Penn sowed the wind. Now let him reap the whirlwind: no doubt some officials feel that way. By writing them off as humiliated, however, not only is Penn trying to divert attention, his ignorance of Mexicans and the Spanish language comes into play. More to follow.
(ii) A New York Times article:
"Mr. Penn wrote that he had gone to great lengths to maintain security while arranging to meet [El Chapo]. He described labeling cheap ´burner´ phones, ´one per contact, one per day, destroy, burn, buy, balancing levels of encryption, mirroring through Blackphones, anonymous email addresses, unsent messages accessed in draft form.´ Nevertheless, he wrote, ´There is no question in my mind but that DEA and the Mexican government are tracking our movements,´ referring to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. A Mexican government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe confidential matters, said the authorities were aware of the meeting with Mr. Penn."
No question...tracking our movements: a fateful comment in more ways than one. Make that, admission.
It presents two possibilities:
(i) Penn was secretly working with the Mexican and American governments. Balancing levels of encryption, burner phones, Blackphones, etc., are jive talk to trick the unwary and keep the children close to the campfire, i.e., the middle class rebels who are Penn´s fan base; his family and friends; gullible Rolling Stone editors; finally, the narcos.
Whatever you do, dear reader, please do not hold your breath waiting for an acknowledgement by Sean Penn that he covertly worked with the police.
We will rephrase possibility (i) in the Rolling Stone´s own gonzo journalism terms: the rat fink option. (Spanish: soplón; sapo).
There is a precedent in Latin America for a famous foreigner betraying a famous wanted man who had been decent to him:
In 1967, Che Guevara´s heavy duty leftist French intellectual friend Régis Debray joined him in the Bolivian jungles. Due to carelessness, Debray was captured in April and, according to Che´s daughter, gave away Guevara´s location. Guevara was hunted down and shot in October.
Thanks to an international campaign, Debray was freed after 3 years in a Bolivian prison. He lives in France, whiling away his hours pursuing strange idées fixes and hole-and-corner political causes, e.g., writing letters to the president defending Serbian war criminal Slobodan Milosovec.
A strange fate awaits such people. Today, the famous Régis Debray is so famous, chances are you never heard of him.
Sean Penn, trickster and rebel, anti-establishment buddy of Hugo Chávez, New/New Lefty fighter for freedom, justice, equality... a rat fink? A snitch?
All things are possible. However, not all things are probable. We come to the second, more likely possibility:
(ii) The unintentional cop. Penn was not secretly working with the police, but he might as well have been.
Because he had "no question" he was being followed by the Mexican and American governments, the responsible thing for Penn to do was cancel the meeting with El Chapo. Instead, he pursued it -- and with barnstorming fervor. El Chapo´s lawyer, Andrés Granados, wrote to his client that Penn was "drooling for a chance to come."
You don´t have to look far to see why:
The meeting was a world scoop. Trains of fame for Sean Penn. 40-something Kate del Castillo had her acting career jump-started. Rolling Stone increased its circulation. Finally, El Chapo would get a movie made about him.
Visions of sugar plums danced in their heads. Win-win for everybody-everybody. It was a master coup by Sean Penn.
Only one thing went wrong on the way to the theater. Reality reared its ugly head.
El Chapo is behind bars. The state pen is mightier than the Penn.
* * *
We return to our question:
Did Sean Penn either (a) intentionally or (b) unintentionally assist in the capture of El Chapo?
Not even Penn´s hairdresser knows for sure. However ...
I spent 3 years in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Cuernavaca. I met drug traffickers (note to Mexican authorities: my best friend was an Agente del Ministerio Público in Mexico City).
I can tell you the first thing that enters the traffickers´ heads right now when they think of Sean Penn. It is how they solve the intentionally/-unintentionally, (a) or (b), mystery:
Traitor or dupe, it makes no difference.
Journalists and actors who are jealous of the worldwide attention the meeting and interview are receiving might think twice. From what I saw, if Mexican narcos grab Sean Penn, his family and friends will wax nostalgic about Jihadi John.
January 16 Update: "Three Messages"
(1) Message to Sean Penn.
Explanations don´t explain anything.*
-- Marcel Duchamp --
Yesterday, excerpts from the Charlie Rose "60 Minutes" interview with you were posted on the Internet.
The reason you broke your silence about El Chapo may have been simple: your lawyers heard the knives coming out.
Your Rose interview was a vintage display of The Blivet Trick, i.e., trying to shove 10 pounds of horse shit into a 5 pound bag. To fool others in order to be able to fool himself: that is the secret inner essence of the trickster.
You denied to Charlie Rose the Mexican Attorney General´s statement that your interview with El Chapo was "essential" to his capture. Implicit in your denial is that you know what was essential to his capture, viz., how the law enforcement authorities succeeded.
Sidebar: Your expertise on Mexican police procedures is all the more remarkable given your lack of the most rudimentary level of Spanish. Besides your frank admission ("I´m pretty restricted to hola and adios"), your low level of comprehension is easily demonstrated:
You said El Chapo spoke Spanish "too fast for my ears." Sorry, El Chapo does not speak fast. Watch and listen to him here. I defy any B student of Spanish II to conclude otherwise. El Chapo has a norteño accent, but so what? His vocabulary in the interview is straightforward -- no caló, idioma verde.
To hear fast Spanish in the mass media, click here. Sean Penn, please focus on "Stalyn," the guy with the blue pants. If you watch him in the presence of Kate del Castillo, look at her face; you will be treated to a Three Stooges double-take.
Your ignorance of Mexican culture, customs and attitudes and the Spanish language prohibited you from understanding what was going on.
Example: you claim El Chapo and his men, out of respect for del Castillo, put on their weapons only after she retired for the night.
Sorry, it doesn´t work that way.
Such men don´t sit around all day armed to the teeth. I think El Chapo was alerted that there was an imminent, dire security threat -- and there was (see below). That alert accounts for why, despite your arduous and risky journey to El Chapo´s turf, no formal, face-to-face interview took place. The 17 minute video interview -- see below -- El Chapo sent you was made later in the year.
Your translator, Kate del Castillo, is not a translator; she´s an actress. From her Blackberry messages with El Chapo, we know her principal communication technique: psychological mirroring. That means she will tell you not what is happening or being said but what she thinks you want to hear.
We return to our main theme. Sean Penn, your argument that your meeting with El Chapo did not lead to his capture is as follows:
Not only was he captured in January, i.e., fully three months after your October meeting, but also he was apprehended in a different place "nowhere near" where the meeting took place.
I will sum up your denial this way: long ago and faraway.
(A) Long ago:
Let me remind you, Sean Penn -- you too, dear reader -- of an event reported by ABC on October 17.
El Chapo narrowly escaped a police raid at a ranch in Cosalá, state of Sinaloa. He jumped off a cliff, injuring his leg. You know about the Cosalá raid; not only was it reported around the world, you wrote about it in your Rolling Stone article.
According to the Sinaloa newspaper Ríodoce, your meeting on October 2 with El Chapo took place in an ecological park owned by the Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa. The park is located in ... Cosalá.
As noted above, you had "no question" you were being followed by the police. Indeed, shortly after you and del Castillo left, the Mexican authorities launched their unsuccessful raid in Cosalá to capture/kill El Chapo.
I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am also not a coincidentalist. The temporal connection between your meeting with El Chapo and the police assault is flagrant. Only a few days separated the two events; El Chapo told del Castillo the raid occurred on October 6. And, I reiterate: you knew the police were following you.
You contrast your October meeting with the January capture of El Chapo. You say the two events are distant in time; hence the former could not have caused the latter. You do not relate his capture to your questions submitted much later in L.A. via BBM to El Chapo for the 17-minute interview. It is possible that exchange lead directly to his capture. More on this subject shortly.
I call on you now, Sean Penn, to furnish two bits of information you curiously failed to supply in your Rolling Stone article:
(i) When did you send the questions to El Chapo for the 17-minute interview?
(ii) When did you receive the video presenting his answers?
Did the video arrive on your doorstep 2 months before he was captured? 2 days? 2 hours? We don´t know. Until you respond, your long ago argument will be written off as an adolescent trickster ploy to divert attention.
(B) As for faraway:
You say El Chapo was captured in a place "nowhere near" where the October meeting took place.
El Chapo was captured in Los Mochis, also in the state of Sinaloa.
Los Mochis and Cosalá are 230 miles apart. I don´t know about you, dear reader, but for me that does not qualify as "nowhere near."
Here, too, the connection is obvious. Your physical presence in Cosalá alerted the authorities. A red flag went up. A dragnet was put in place. It promptly pulled smaller, tighter.
Most likely, we will never know all the details of the police operation, of how Cosalá led up the road to Los Mochis -- and neither will you, Sean Penn, although you claim to know them. After all, if you do not know them, how can you reasonably deny the Attorney General´s statement that your visit was a key element in El Chapo´s capture?
We said it before. Deontology, Sean Penn: deontology. It is what you fail to address or acknowledge -- much less display -- in the Charlie Rose interview or anywhere else.
We will say it again. On the most rudimentary level, by deontology we mean: if somebody grants you an interview, the least you can do is not put their life in danger.
A lack of deontology made you crash to earth. It is what enabled the authorities to trick you -- make that, get you to trick yourself -- so that you would lead them to El Chapo. More on this topic below.
It´s time to come down hard, with both feet. When you realized the police were following you, you should have called off the meeting. By not turning back, you put El Chapo, your interviewee, in harm´s way. There: that´s the takeaway.
In the end, nobody needs to hear what the Attorney General said in order to refute your denial that you were essential to El Chapo´s capture. The prima facie facts, temporal and geographical, presented above speak for themselves. Unless, of course, one is a coincidentalist.
I will go ahead and string the beads:
Your October meeting with El Chapo definitely, absolutely, indisputably put the Mexican authorities in the right vicinity. I don´t know how they took it to Los Mochis, but they did.
However, I can speculate ...
You say you did not endanger El Chapo. I know somebody who disagrees with you: El Chapo. You note that both of you had agreed to meet again on October 11. You waited in a Mexican airport. He failed to contact you -- as you acknowledge, the heat was on -- and you returned to L.A. empty-handed. You say you subsequently tried to re-establish contact, but your intermediaries had gone "off radar, or possibly been arrested, or killed."
Nevertheless, Kate del Castillo in L.A. was able to re-establish communication with El Chapo. The simple fact is this: he refused to meet with you again. Given the police assault in Cosalá and the tightening dragnet, his rebuff is understandable.
In the end, the video he sent you was a sawed-off compromise. An interview, but no meeting.
Hypothesis: when you Blackberried interview questions to El Chapo, the authorities traced either them or El Chapo´s reply and/or Kate del Castillo´s communications with him concerning the interview to Los Mochis.
And so, in spite of your absolute certitude that the authorities were tracking you; in spite of the military assault in Cosalá only days after your October 2 meeting; in spite of El Chapo´s refusal to meet with you a second time, you doggedly pursued the 17-minute interview with him anyway. Incredible.
In deontology there is a word for what you did: unconscionable.
Directly or indirectly? Intentionally or unintentionally? Call it what you will, it still remains the same. You aided in the capture of El Chapo.
You refuse to step up to the plate and accept your responsibility. That means you are not playing a role; rather, you are possessed by an archetype. There is a world of difference: in the former case you dominate it, in the latter it dominates you.
As for what that archetype is: as we noted in our May letter to Alejandro Iñárritu, "No trickster apologizes."
Early on, when you sensed the police were following you, you should have cancelled the meeting. There; I said it four times.
Until you admit what is obvious you are condemned to feign and disdain; to justify; to be self-righteous; to play what happened over and over again; to make explanation after explanation; to proclaim and defame to the stars above. In the language of Rolling Stone gonzo journalism: to try to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.
What happens if you admit what is obvious?
Answer: because no trickster apologizes, you cease to be a trickster.
I cannot end this message to you without addressing your statement to Charlie Rose that your motive for seeking the El Chapo interview was to start a serious discussion about the war on drugs. Sorry, you have little or no foundation to support your claim.
I invite readers who disagree to
(i) watch the 17-minute interview with El Chapo. It contains nothing -- zero, nix, nul, nada, rien, ничто, 無, nichts, لا شى -- to start a serious discussion about drugs.
(ii) As for your Rolling Stone article, I counted 10,692 words. I will be generous: 324 deal with the war on drugs. Regarding their content, Sean Penn, you piss and moan about what everybody already knows -- the war is hypocritical and a failure. In all: as profound as flushing the toilet.
Your remaining 10,000 words are dedicated to the proposition that history will treasure your every nose wipe.
(iii) Finally, I invite skeptical readers to read Sean Penn´s Wikipedia biography. Hurricane Katrina, defense of Hugo Chávez, Falkland Islands: Penn´s favorite causes are all there. Except one. I don´t need to string the beads. Régis Debray will nod, wink.
The proverbial bottom line comes into view: no credibility.
Your critics allege you interviewed El Chapo for the usual reasons -- $, fame. Career-building. For them, the serious drug discussion you mentioned to Charlie Rose is nothing but an ex post facto weasel hole.
I see another, deeper reason for what precipitated your El Chapo meeting and interview; you will find it below. Sean Penn, it is something you never imagined, much less thought about.
P.S. There is a glaring contradiction in the Attorney General´s statement. Did you spot it? I will not reveal it here because of our long-standing policy. This blog gives opinion, not advice.
(2) Message to El Chapo´s legal team.
A few nights from now the final warning bell will sound.
The doors will close, lock. The lights will dim.
A hush will overcome the audience.
An unseen conductor will tap his baton.
On stage, the curtains will part, and out will walk
a little duck.
-- Comandante Lentes, "Pillars of The Sea" --
You are doing your best not to leave electronic footprints, but indicators suggest you are reading and forwarding this post to your associates.
You can surf but you can´t hide (with erstwhile apologies to boxing great Joe Louis).
I don´t doubt for a second that El Chapo´s life has all the elements of a Greek tragedy. Not just a good one -- a great one. His intuition about a biographical movie is on solid ground.
Your client´s Greek tragedy, however, is compounded by another tragedy. There is nobody in Hollywood today capable of writing the story that his story deserves, much less of producing it, directing it, acting in it. If they could make such a movie, they would have done it by now.
Please, do not turn to classic Hollywood films to refute my position. All the European refugee masters from World War I and II who made Hollywood great, e.g., Elia Kazan with whom my father worked, are gone.
Rumors are circulating that Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo are now thinking of not making a movie about El Chapo at all. Instead, they want to make a movie about themselves. Surprise!
Talk about adding insult to injury. El Chapo is facing a double whammy. Not only a bad movie about him, but no movie at all.
Fortunately for you and your client, Hollywood is not the only game in town. An example of a superb Italian movie: "Youth" (2015) starring Michael Caine and directed by Paolo Sorrentino. In case you think I am going too far afield, Sorrentino directed another movie, "This Must Be The Place," (2011) starring ... Sean Penn.
In the end, if handled properly your client´s movie project would turn into a classic jujutsu maneuver. El Chapo´s weakness -- a desire to have a movie made about him -- would be converted into his strength.
For the moment, El Chapo is the hottest person on the planet; I cannot leave home or stay home without hearing his name.
Moments, however, are quickly and irredeemably followed by other moments. That is why urgent is the watchword of Penn and del Castillo. They know they must hurry/hurry/hurry before mega/mega/megabucks fly off to the next newest best thing.
There is absolutely nothing new in their situation. The upshot of Hollywood ineptness + urgency is playing right now at a theater near you. Retinal junk food. The proof that a Penn/del Castillo movie will be no exception is right in front of you:
(i) Penn has legions of A-List lawyers, writers, agents, publicity consultants and pr managers at his disposal. Fact: it took us less than two minutes to demolish their long ago and far away story. You might want to wonder: that story was the best that Hollywood´s finest -- its A Team -- has to offer. Incredible.
Dangerous, too, if certain people arrive at a certain conclusion about it.
(ii) Penn´s questions in the video interview with El Chapo are 17 minutes of professional dilettantism. They are a mini-bantamweight contender in a sport that has no mini-bantamweight class.
Let me clarify:
In any interview with a public figure a strange little dance takes place.
The person interviewed of course wants to be shown in a good light. Their priority should not be summarily dismissed; after all, if you believe they have nothing to offer, why talk to them? However, their desire for a puff piece must be balanced by other concerns: put forth new ideas in an exciting way; address important issues and stimulate public debate; create unexpected insights and possibly solutions. In short, offer the public an interesting discussion. A good time.
The Penn interview achieved none of those things. Puerile, fire poker-rigid, throwaway, rose garden, softball questions ruled the waves. ("How are your relations with your mother?" Answer: "Perfect." ) As exciting as a wet tortilla.
I see nothing wrong, incidentally, in offering El Chapo the chance to make corrections. However, there is another way to do it than the outright censorship Penn ingenuously offered him:
I always gave my interviewees the opportunity to read what I wrote before it was published and to make comments. There was a caveat: I reserved the right to comment on their comments. Not one of them ever suggested a single change.
I also have no problem with submitting questions in advance, especially to people like your client who are inexperienced with interviewers. Unlike the American mass media, what my interviews searched for was not gotcha items to make somebody look stupid but insights, solutions and the other items mentioned above. Unlike Penn and Rolling Stone, I was seeking good answers.
And good answers were there for the making. What is your client´s take on the disappearance of the 43 students in Guerrero? Does he think the legalization of drugs would help or hurt his profit margin?
Methods for creating good interviews are limitless. I conducted my first interview when I was 17 years old with Hank Ballard and The Midnighters. They had been interviewed countless times; I knew that to produce new results, I had to ask new questions.
I began with: "How does somebody get a job as a Midnighter? Is there a guy with a phone in a room someplace?" They howled with laughter, regaled the attendees with Country Club Malt Liquor; for chasers there was fried chicken. We went on from there. (Tension was palpable when we discussed "The Twist"; our interview anticipated a controversy that became manifest decades later).
As noted, people like your client always come to an interview with an agenda. As an interviewer, that fact of life never bothered me -- but the agenda had better be interesting to the general public. Over 95% of the time, it isn´t. What to do?
New questions are required to pull interviews out of old ruts. They do not break the interviewee´s agenda; rather, they transform it.
A sample lead-off question I asked interviewees over 50 years old:
"Let´s say death no longer exists. Let´s say also that you can pick the age you will stay at forever. However, you must accept everything that goes with that age. You cannot, for example, have the body of a teenager with the wisdom of a 60-year-old. What age would you pick?" I had an entire questionnaire of follow-up items that led down unforeseen, unexplored corridors. Everybody -- me included -- came to the interview thinking one thing; they left with another.
Most interviews are not only uninspired, they are exploitative. At the end of the day, they benefit only the interviewer and his publisher. Occasionally, the beneficiaries include the interviewee´s shirt shop.
Given the fact El Chapo is in prison, the Penn interview is a textbook case bar none of exploitation of an interviewee. Right now, Penn and del Castillo are safely ensconced in L.A., receiving lucrative offers from left, right and center. Your client, au contraire, was left with what the bird left on the limb.
A good interview is not an interview. It is a conversation in which both sides -- the reader, too -- discover what they already knew but were not aware of. In the course of successive revelations, everybody is entertained. Sometimes dazzled.
El Chapo lawyers and counselors, I conclude my message to you on a pensive note. Here is something the tone-deaf Sean Penn, Kate del Castillo, Hollywood establishment and Rolling Stone editors will never hear:
The truth is always dramatic.
(3) Message to Readers.
It cannot hold; it will not.
-- William Shakespeare, "Timon of Athens."
Act II, Scene 1 --
You are asking two questions:
(i) What enabled the authorities to get Sean Penn, the trickster, to trick himself and lead them to El Chapo? What was their leverage point?
(ii) Was Kate del Castillo (a) working with the Mexican authorities from day one? A soplona? Sapa? Or, (b) is she so stupid or naive she did not realize her Blackberry messages to El Chapo would be monitored by the police? (c) Both of the above?
Ultimately, questions (i) and (ii) have the same answer. It is what lurks beneath the entire Sean Penn/El Chapo affair.
"An inflated consciousness is always egocentric and conscious of nothing but its own presence. It is incapable of learning from the past, incapable of understanding contemporary events, and incapable of drawing right conclusions about the future. It is hypnotized by itself and therefore cannot be argued with. It inevitably dooms itself to calamities that must strike it dead."**
The ancient Greeks knew only too well the phenomenon Jung described. They even had a word for it: ὕβρις. Hubris.
Hubris is the most common form of hamartia.
Clarification, January 24
No doubt some readers have the impression we are feeding Sean Penn to the narcos.
Not so. You are missing the mark.
Of course, the narcos may decide to grab Penn. Then again, they may just as well decide to leave him alone.
What!? How can that be?
Our post contains all the beads to string the second conclusion. 99% of American readers did not see them. Those readers include Sean Penn and the clueless Hollywood A Team "advising" him, viz., isolating him.
To a man, a cultural bias is blinding them to a reality two feet in front of them. Penn inadvertently exposed it when he advertently exposed himself in his Rolling Stone article:
"I throw my satchel into the open back of one of the SUVs, and lumber over to the tree line to take a piss. Dick in hand, I do consider it among my body parts vulnerable to the knives of irrational narco types, and take a fond last look, before tucking it back into my pants."
Sorry, it doesn´t work that way.
Mexicans are arguably the best hosts in the world. That includes Mexican criminals -- maybe even more so. If you are their guest, they feel 100% responsible for your welfare. They made a commitment when they accepted you, and they willingly accept their responsibility.
In host/guest obligations and reciprocity, a gulf separates Mexicans from Americans. The latter will never understand the former. Never.
Their limited, culture-bound perspective explains why Penn´s Hollywood establishment team never imagined -- much less developed -- the host/guest principles and practices in Mexican deontology that could save his life. Instead, they spent their time and Penn´s money concocting the horse-shit-and-gun-smoke, long ago and faraway story that went nowhere fast.
(Sidebar: regarding Mexican customs, attitudes and expectations of hosts/guests, I repeat that this blog offers opinion, not advice. The difference between them is often subtle. Under our long-standing policy, advice that knowingly cannot be implemented is not advice; it is opinion.)
What happens in Mexico when a guest behaves badly? Sean Penn, take note:
Again, Mexicans accept their responsibility. They sigh, look at the floor. They made a mistake; they should not have invited the guest. The fault is theirs and theirs alone. Penn is another clumsy and naive, greedy gringo. A jerk. We should never have welcomed him. The knives go back where they came from. End of story.
Or is it?
If Sean Penn vanishes, it will mean one of two things:
(i) the narcos concluded he was a rat fink, and not a bad guest.
(ii) Penn is in WITSEC -- the witness protection program.
*“ « les explications n’expliquent rien. » Related by Paul Matisse, « Avant-Propos », in Marcel Duchamp, Notes, Flammarion, Paris, 1999, p. 9.
**Collected Works, Volume 12 ¶ 563.